Health Tips from a Mother of Three

Colon Cancer: Symptoms And Screening Options

Colon cancer is a slow-growing cancer with few or no symptoms in the early stages. For this reason, doctors recommend that many individuals have a colonoscopy as part of a routine colon cancer screening.

Colonoscopies are not something anyone looks forward to, but they are an important tool in detecting and treating cancer early. Most cancer that is found in the early stages is very treatable. Early detection also increases the survival rate.

So, does everyone need to have a colonoscopy? Here's what you need to know about colon cancer and the types of screenings available.

What Is Colon Cancer?

When cells in the colon or rectum grow rapidly and out of control, it leads to colon cancer. The rapid cell growth causes abnormal growth in the colorectal area. A colonoscopy can detect these growths, or polyps, in the early stages.

The cause of colon cancer is not known, but there are factors that increase a person's risk:

  • Poor diet that is lacking fiber
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Heredity

The polyps that form in the colon turn cancerous slowly over a number of years. It often takes a decade or more for polyps to become cancerous. This is why finding polyps early is important for prompt removal.

What Are Colon Cancer Symptoms?

Early in the disease, most patients have no symptoms at all. When patients do have symptoms, they are typically similar to digestive issues.

  • Abdominal pain
  • Gas
  • Cramps
  • Changes in bowel habits

Any person who is having consistent changes in bowel habits along with rectal pain or bleeding should consult a doctor. Even

Who Should Have A Colonoscopy?

Even if a person feels healthy, a colonoscopy is a critical screening tool. Colon cancer is more common among older people, so the recommended age for colon cancer screening is age 45.

Doctors recommend that anyone with a family history of colon cancer or other increased risks should have screenings earlier.

Is A Colonoscopy The Only Screening Tool?

Several options exist for colon cancer screening. Each screening method has its advantages and disadvantages.

A colonoscopy uses a scope to look inside your colon using a video camera. Using this method, any polyps found are quickly removed and tissues are used for a biopsy.

The fecal immunochemical test, FIT test, uses stool to check for cancer. The test uses antibodies to find blood in the stool. This test is not as accurate as a colonoscopy, so it's not for patients with a high risk of colon cancer.

Colon cancer is treatable and curable when found early. Talk with your doctor about colon cancer testing options to determine which is best based on your health.